Author Topic: Firewomen look to develop young talent  (Read 785 times)

Offline David

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Firewomen look to develop young talent
« on: June 28, 2007, 03:46:42 PM »
The West Michigan Firewomen soccer team is adding a reserve squad to develop a pool of younger talent.

The Firewomen are playing their fourth season in Holland, including their third under ownership of the West Michigan Fire Juniors club.

"I think the ultimate goal here, especially with the club, is this becomes another vertical layer for the organization," said first-year Firewomen coach Todd Derby. "They have some pretty good girls teams at 16, 17 and 18.

"This becomes natural. They graduate from high school, go to college and come home for the summer. They keep those players involved."

The Fire Juniors soccer club provides competitive play for all levels of boys and girls up to age 18. The W-League is an amateur league, tabbed the highest level of women's soccer in North America for the time.

Forming a reserve squad for the first time will be critical to the team's success, Derby said. While most soccer teams can carry 17 or 18 players, it can be difficult to get full commitments from college-age players over summer months.

"Other coaches have told me they don't feel comfortable until they have a pool of about 30 players," he said. "I've made it available for them to train with the main team as much as possible. When we get to having 20-plus players there, we can work on some full field attacking. That makes it very helpful. It would make sense to have them involved."

Fire Juniors club executive director Ian McMahon, who coached the Firewomen for two seasons, said the reserve squad would be primarily made up of local players.

"It's such a big level, you want to be careful not to throw them into the deep end," McMahon said. "The idea is to do some training and look at some potential games.

"We've got some decent talent and every year it gets stronger and stronger," he added. "It's crucial that some of these player aren't quite ready for W-League, but they should be training in and around that level."

The Firewomen have struggled in the Midwest Division, finishing in last place each season. This year, there is more emphasis on attracting college players from around the state - Grand Valley State University, Central Michigan University, Michigan State University, University of Michigan and Saginaw Valley State University.

"We're not naive. We know it's a tough step," McMahon said. "The aim is to get our own players and local players playing at this level. We want to win every game, but we also want to make sure we're giving opportunities to local players. A reserve team bridges the gap between high schools and the W-League."

The W-League formed when the WUSA, a professional league, folded in 2003. There is a movement in place to relaunch the WUSA following the women's World Cup this summer in China.

Many players from the WUSA dropped to the W-League. Derby said he hopes the Firewomen will be able to place players on a WUSA roster.

"It's no secret that in the Grand Rapids market there are quite a few good players that we could put together a pretty good reserve team," Derby said.

The Firewomen play home games at Jenison High School, and compete in the Midwest Division against teams from Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, Minneapolis, Fort Wayne, Ind., and London, Ontario.